Sunday, January 24, 2016

Share the trail with fat tire bikes

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, January 24, 2016


You’re out for your weekend long run on the trail near you, and coming at you is what looks like a draft horse of a trail bike.  The rider grins as he passes you by and you are left to wonder, ‘what was that?’

Welcome to the new world of fat tire cycling.  Yes, it has fat tires but unlike our own fat winter midsection, these fat tires are light as well, air.  Eric Noonan of Morristown, the computer geek at the Randolph Marty’s Reliable Cycle, and PR guy for the latest thing to hit cycling since chains and gears, gave me the lowdown.  The fat tires are at 5 to 7 PSI which according to Noonan is very low pressure. 

“Because they are so fat you kind of bounce along and sort of absorb the bumps,” he said.  “They are quite fun to ride on mountain bike trails all year round.”

Although the bikes look like they are hard to pedal Noonan says no.

“If you actually pick one up you will see that there is less mass than you would think.”

“When we put people on them and they go for a ride,” said Noonan, “They pretty much, one hundred percent, they buy them.”

Noonan said that the fat tire bikes have been around for a few years but have only caught fire in the last year or so.  Marty’s have been promoting them for winter riding but they are great all year around.

“Riding on the roads (on road bikes) it is really cold,” he said.  “With a fat bike you’re going a little slower so there is not so much wind and you can actually ride them in the snow, if we actually get some snow.”   We talked on Thursday with the snow storm predicted but not yet a reality.

The irony of the fat tire bikes is that they don’t actually do well in deep snow, even while being promoted as a good snow bike.  Noonan explained that if the snow is not groomed or packed down it can be difficult.

He was hopeful that this area would get only six inches or so, the perfect depth for good fat tire biking.  A group ride was being planned for Saturday afternoon in the predicted falling snow. 

It’s those group rides that caught my attention.  My south and west facing windows overlook the West Morris Greenway Trail that morph’s into the Patriots Path trail going out to Chester from Roxbury’s Horseshoe Lake Park.  On at least two Sunday mornings I saw a large group of riders going out on the trail arousing my curiosity.

On Saturday, January 9th I couldn’t believe my eyes looking out the window as I dressed to go out for a run.  Riders were streaming by with traffic waiting for the two hundred plus riders.

Noonan explained that this was what they had been training for; the Fat Fifty ride.  Twenty-five miles of fat tire riding from Marty’s in Randolph all the way to High Bridge, using the available trails and in Chester some roads to get to the Columbia Trail that begins near West Morris High School and runs through Long Valley to its end in High Bridge.

At High Bridge a camper was waiting where a volunteer would hand out a chip to certify that a rider had gone all the way, then the long ride back to the Marty’s store in Randolph.  Not all riders made it to the turn-around. 

“We had a cut-off time,” said Noonan.  “We told people, ‘if you don’t make it to the turnaround in three hours, then just turnaround wherever you are, as there won’t be any support for you’.”

Back at the store, a fire pit in the parking lot awaited the hardy cyclists, hot soup, along with Sierra Nevada beer provided by Peerless Beverage, as well as a home brewed beer provided by one of the riders.

On the Columbia Trail, runners often have to share the trail with Clydesdales from a nearby farm.  Now they are sharing with a clydesdale of a different kind happily bouncing down the trail.  Don’t be upset and remember what Noonan said, people who test the bike out of curiosity buy them.  You could be adding a new cross trainer to your arsenal.  Happy Trails.


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